A reluctant New Pornographer and the mastermind of a post-ironic art-rock band that takes its heavy-metal name literally, Destroyer’s Daniel Bejar is a world-class underminer. He springs rude reversals (“The future’s yours/No, wait, I lied”), repurposes popular refrains (“Have I told you lately that I love you?/Did I fail to mention there’s a sword hanging above you?”), and interrupts his prodigious bouts of garrulous belligerence with aphasic la la la‘s that function equally as amusing fuck-yous and moving admissions of defeat (there are no words, in other words). But Bejar’s flair for negation goes beyond verbal short-circuitry; it also informs the architecture of his increasingly epic constructions. He told an interviewer that 2002’s swampy glam odyssey, This Night, was the sound of “the band waging war on the songs.” Two years later, Bejar attempted single-handed combat on the lushly synthetic Your Blues, armed only with MIDIs and his nasal whine at its most theatrical.
The stupendous Destroyer’s Rubies, recorded with a full, swaggering band, is maybe his best and certainly his least theoretical album. Instead of threatening to implode, these amazingly elastic songs take shape from the tense, ornate interplay of ambling grooves, tumbling riffs, and spiraling imagery. The 10-minute opener “Rubies” oscillates between blindsiding fragments and euphoric swells, name-checking This Night and Your Blues, deepening the Destroyer mythology to an extent that might disorient even longtime fans: Which night? Whose blues? (Later, “This Night” stretches to “These Nights” and “Your Blues” is revived as “Your Blood.”) Bejar’s oblique lyrics often register as scenester broadsides—hard to say, though, if the scene in question is indie rock, Vancouver bohemia, or Western art and civilization. Less a concept album than a world unto itself, Rubies stars several enigmatic dames (Clytemnestra, Tabitha) and phantom paintings (“European Oils,” “Watercolours Into the Ocean”) and, with its breathless talk of bankrupt art and underground fakes, scans as a blueprint for a revolution. By no coincidence, a favored location is the town square: a historic site of violent overthrows, of destruction and renewal.
Destroyer plays Bowery Ballroom March 28